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New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham defended her decision to settle with a former campaign employee who was accused of sexual assault in 2018, speaking to reporters for the first time on Friday.

Grisham’s campaign has paid at least $62,500 to 2018 campaign spokesman James Hallinan, who claimed he once spilled water on her lap and then grabbed her crotch at a pre-election meeting.

The governor has denied the allegations.

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“I was focused on the pandemic, and I will stand by that decision” [to settle] Every minute of every day,” she told reporters in her first personal remarks about the agreement. She also denied that there were any additional agreements or non-disclosure agreements.

Hallinan’s lawyer was paid in five monthly installments to a law firm representing him.

New Mexico dame governor criticizes protesters as ‘lizard people’ as he announces reelection bid

Grisham campaign spokesman Jared Leopold previously said that the settlement was “part of an agreement settling a number of questionable and disputed potential claims made by Mr Hallinan arising from his employment in 2018 with the campaign organization” and that ” strongly denies that there is “any merit or truth to Mr Hallinan’s claims,” ​​according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham defended her decision to settle with a former campaign staffer who on Friday first accused her of sexual assault in 2018. (The Associated Press)

Asked whether Hallinan’s claims had ever been independently investigated, Grisham said he had “not seen anywhere in the country an independent investigation into employment claims.”

In New York, several sexual assault claims against Gov. Andrew Cuomo are being investigated by the state’s attorney general.

The alleged incident involving Grisham is said to have happened at the home of New Mexico State Representative Deborah Armstrong, who said she had never witnessed any harassment.

State campaign finance regulators state that settlement payments are allowed from political campaign accounts because they involve an employment dispute related to Hallinan’s time with the gubernatorial election campaign.

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Grisham is a former state representative who was elected as governor in 2018.

She announced her bid to run for re-election last week and met a crowd of protesters who rejected her for her handling of the pandemic. He dismissed them as the “Qu-Anon Lizard People”.

Soon after, he canceled another rally over security concerns, according to Santa Fe New Mexican.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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